virgin blog

I was toying with the idea of blogging around May last year(2010),just after I passed my Knowledge of London torture.I even went as far as setting up a website and had written several items on it,some I thought being very good.I never uploaded it for public viewing though, rather using it more as a practice tool.More and more people are blogging.I think of it as the same as writing your Facebook status but with a bit more detail and ethusiasum.We seem to be moving towards a culture of non verbal communication.People are texting,blogging,tweeting and commenting.We are losing the ability to communicate verbally.So im jumping on the bandwagon.If you can’t beat them,join them! I’m gonna give it a go.I might lose interest in a month.Who knows?

But don’t worry.I wont tire you with drivel about what I had for breakfast or anything like that.Ill try to be intresting.Thought provoking even.R.

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Going back to my roots

It was 27 years ago when I last walked through the gates into Ash Grove bus Garage in Hackney. I was only 19 years old and I was about to undergo 3 weeks of intensive training to become a London Bus driver.

The instructor drove us to a lay-by on the A12 in an old route-master and barked at me to get in the drivers seat and try not to ruin his upcoming retirement pension by steering us all into the bushes.

Memories of those old bone shakers came flooding back as I wandered around the depot trying to remember the layout 27 years earlier.

I had a lot of fun driving the route masters. When it rained, you could guarantee you would end up getting wet on the inside too. Wipers were often rendered useless as the rain would seep inside the windscreen and make it down to your feet which were usually frozen solid as the heaters hardly ever worked plus you could see the ground through cracks in the cab floor.

Indicating would give you repetitive strain injuries as the knob to indicate was on the dash and you had to stretch to reach it.

Climbing in and out of the cab was never a gracious affair. I once lost my footing climbing out at Victoria station and ended up sprawled out on the tarmac much to the bemusement of around 50 passengers who were patiently waiting to board upon my arrival.

Potholes were fun to. The driver seat didn’t have any of the modern day luxuries that today’s buses have such as lumbar support or springs et cetera. Run over a pothole and you could quite easily break your neck, put your back out or smash your fingers on the metal steering wheel.

I put most of my aches and pains I suffer from now down to those old dinosaurs.

When I joined the buses all those years ago London Transport had recently privatised the bus network into 12 separate companies. Ash Grove garage was part of London Forest. London Forest had four garages. Clapton, which is where I was to be based, Walthamstow which has now been turned into flats, Ash Grove and Leyton.

I’d only been with London Forest for about 6 months or so when a row broke out between management and what was then a very strong union. It was over tendering and pay. Anyway the end result was we were all ordered out on strike. The strike lasted 3 weeks. No buses ran out of those four garages.

I can’t remember what happened next or how but London Forest became obsolete and we were all taken under by one of the other companies called Leaside buses. Leaside were eventually taken over by Cowie and Cowie changed their name to Arriva.

Pictured below is RM5. You could almost guarantee you’d see someone taking a photo of this bus as you drive it around town on route 38. It’s one of the first production Routemasters. She was an old girl. Built in 1954. She was a pig to drive until they ripped the original engine out and put a new one in. Trouble is she never sounded the same again.

Yesterday’s visit to Ash Grove was different in that I was there on a minibus driving awareness and passenger safety course, organised by the charity I volunteer for.

Unfortunately I let my PCV license expire without renewing it. My bus driving days are well and truly over. But it was a big part of my life. One that changed my future but will always be a memorable past time.

#midas #ashgrove #londonbus #routemaster

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Faith matters

I love this quote from The Bible…

“The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy-seed, say, you would tell this mountain, `Move!` and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn`t be able to tackle.”

Just over 6 years ago me and Kelie were walking along Central Street and we noticed  some new builds in their early stages of construction.

We were getting very close to the time that we needed to upgrade to a bigger property. We had been in our flat for almost two and a half years and needed another bedroom. Things were cramp to say the least. We`d been, as far as im concerned, extremely blessed to have been offered our first flat with very few points and little waiting time. That was a miracle in itself. But the time was fast approaching for us to move.

We thought it would be nice to live in the new builds we were passing but we really knew that was just not going to happen. We had only just put our names back on the list again for a bigger property and it can take years and a lot more points than we had before you were even considered. It would be a miracle if we even got a viewing.

I secretly said a quick prayer as we passed asking for a flat in this new development.

I truly believe in miracles. Also in answers to prayer. I can’t go into it now but miracles have taken place several times in my life. Stuff that couldn`t possibly be explained or have been a coincidence.

For me, my faith is a response to need. When ive needed something my faith in God has provided.

But the quote at the top of this blog always makes me feel pretty rubbish at faith. It really slams home the fact that no matter how faithful you think you are, in fact your faith is almost nothing. Its smaller than a poppy-seed. I’ve never seen the Pope move a mountain. Imagine that, the Pope`s faith is smaller than a poppy-seed! What size must mine be? Minute.

But to put your faith into something you can`t see is no easy task.

I’ve never seen a million pounds. In fact I don’t think I even know anyone that has. But I know it exists. I have faith that a million pounds exists even though I’ve never or probably never will see the money. People on the tv talk about it, I read about it in the newspaper. Same as God really. People talked and wrote about him in The Bible. And that’s where my faith comes from.

But my smaller than a poppy-seed faith has it`s benifits. No, I may not be able to tell mountains to move, but I can ask and receive.  Thats how my faith works for me. And I’m living proof of this.

Needless to say, we got the flat. We had very few points and waited about eight months. If that. For me it was by faith and answer to prayer that we received the flat.

But whats the point of this particular blog. I’m not sure really. I don’t want to get on religious on you. The pastor at my church hates the word religion. He says it makes people think of all the bad things that are associated with it. Such as war, terrorism and the dodgy things some priests get up to. And I`d have to agree with him.

I’m just sharing some of the things my faith has done for me. And hopefully revive yours. (if of course it needed reviving at all!)

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9/11 Where I was

We all, well most of us anyway know where we were on that sad day. I just wanted to share how I found out the news and where I was and what I was doing at the time.
You might find it dead boring, as I probably would find your account. But here goes anyway. It’s personal to us.

It was mid afternoon I think. Id just pulled into Marble Arch from driving a london tour bus round our great city for two hours. The passengers were getting off and the tour guide came down the stairs looking at her mobile phone with a look of shock and horror on her face. I don’t know if she had a text from someone or received a news alert but I just remember her saying that a plane had hit the World Trade centre.

Id been in New York just 24 months before and have a great shot of Manhattan Island and the World Trade Centre taken from the top of The Empire State Building.
I didn’t know what the two buildings in my photograph were as much as the typical Londoner wouldn’t know what building was the Ministry of Defence or where the Stock Exchange is located.

I was on my lunch break now and the news of the air crash had spread like wildfire. Apparently it was breaking news so with that in mind I decided to head to Dixons in Oxford street to see if the t.v`s on display had the news channels on.

On arrival at Dixons I noticed a crowd had gathered outside with their heads pressed to the window. I could see nothing so pushed my way into the store where what I witnessed brings me close to tears as I write this.

Hundreds of t.v`s all over the store were showing the same channel. The same awful footage. The picture all familiar to us of the smoke billowing out of the first tower.
There was silence. People standing with open mouths and hands on their heads.
People staring blankly into the screens unable to understand what was happening.

That silence was broken by a women who had pushed her way to the front of the crowd and upon witnessing the scenes broke down in front of the screen and wept loudly. Nobody touched her. Nobody went to her aid. People were numb.
Suddenly people started to pull out their mobiles and were making frantic calls to relatives and friends.
Another lady started to cry and then the security guard switched off all the telly`s.
People protested but the guard had a job to do and to be honest I don`t think they were likely to sell any t.v`s right then.
The second plane hadn`t hit yet. I saw that later.

Theres going to be a time in all our lives where a news event will affect and make an imprint on our lives. This one was mine. I`ll always remember my mum telling me that Elvis had died. It was 1977 and I was 5 years old and remember my mum doing the ironing in the front room and telling me the news. It ment nothing to me. I didn’t know who Elvis was. But somehow I remember. Maybe the shock coming from my mother left that memory in my mind. Seeing a parent shocked or confused can have an impact on a child.

I made sure that we didn’t speak about the London bombings in front of my son. He was about 7 at the time. Children this young can become frightened by the fear shown by an adult especially a parent.
We need to protect our young ones from the evils of this world. I will sit with my 14-year-old son and watch the 10th anniversary minute by minute account on the History channel. He is old enough to see it now. But our young don’t need to see.

I remember nothing else of my shift that day.

Thats my account…what was yours?

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The Man`s Mall

I hate shopping. Clothes shopping that is. Its boring, tedious and mentally draining to the male species.
Food shopping I can do. I’ll read ingredient labels and look for cheaper alternatives, spend time in each aisles inspecting the goods on offer.
But clothes shopping should be done as quickly as possible. Buying all my clothes in one shop is the ultimate goal for me.
Oxford street? Id rather suck my eyeballs out with a vacuum.
Westfield? I can tolerate an hour, maybe 90 minutes max.
It’s minimal walking as everything under the one roof. But it’s still big enough for me to have to adopt the recovery position when I get home.

There is however one place I do like. Try to imagine a shopping centre where you are the only customer. No bumping into irate women waving their handbags. No queuing at the tills while some daft cougar exchanges all her clothes because they don`t fit as she couldn`t be bothered to try them on last time she came shopping.
No tacky fast food joints and no screaming kids.
Imagine going to a mall and having the place to yourself.
A place with spectacular views of London from the roof terrace.

Sounds like a dream doesn’t it?

But this place exsists. Its right next to St.Pauls Cathedral and its called One New Change and it’s just a 15 minute walk from my flat.

It’s a fairly new mall. Opened in December 2010 and designed by architect Jean Nouvel. It has 340,000 sq ft of prestigious office space and 220,000 sq feet of shops, cafés and restaurants.

You really will be the only one in the shops most of the time. It can get a little busy during lunch time but still nothing like your average mall. Saturdays and Sundays are best. Because of its location in the square mile and lack of local knowledge to its whereabouts you really will have the place to yourselves.

If you happen to be in the area I urge you to poke your head in and take a look. The views from the roof are fantastic as you can see from the photos below.

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Rapture and Boris

With around 7 million followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses its hard to understand why so many people are part of a religion/cult which has successfully incorrectly predicted the second coming and end of time well over 10 times.
I’m not going into how they recruit followers or how they keep you as a follower because I can only go on my research and understanding of the recruiting methods.
But 7 million is a huge number of people who seem either oblivious to the incorrect predictions or are just plain stupid.
The mind boggles at people’s commitment to faith and obvious false teachings.

As are the followers of Harold Camping, a preacher from California.
According to him we will see a sudden loss of around 2% of the population tonight at around 6pm.(21st May,2011)
And in October this year if you are unsaved then you will perish on the 21st. So don’t be booking any Christmas vacations or Guy Fawkes parties.
How can people follow someone or something that can be so wrong on so many occasions?
With most cults, mind control, threats and exposure has a lot to do with it.
I don`t consider Campings church a cult. But they have certainly lost their way somewhere.

Camping is 89. Maybe this has something to do with it. The older we get the more erratic we get right?
But to his followers I say this…Don’t let tomorrows failure destroy your faith. The Bible was not wrong, you just had it interpreted wrong to you. Harold Camping and his complex string of assumptions and fact fiddling has failed you, God’s Word has not failed you.

The Bible is clear that only God knows the end time. Know one else. It’s as simple as that for Christians. The Bible is simple reading if you read a modern version such as The Message or New Living translation. Theres nothing hidden in it. No codes or hidden texts.

Preachers such as Camping and Terry Jones are the Christian equivalent of Muslim extremists. They turn their church and followers into a cult by denying essential parts of the Christian faith and deviating away from scripture.

Of course, your truly has taken steps to make sure I don’t burn in hell. But I say confidently that tonight wont be the day that you do either. Unless of course you get mowed down by a bus or something unrelated to Campings teachings.

On a brighter note however, I have a prediction of my own.
Don`t worry, I’m not a Christian extremist or false prophet.

I predict that by the end of summer 2011(lets say no later than end of September) someone will die while riding a Boris bike.
Grim I know but highly likely. So much so that I’m considering popping into Ladbrokes to see if the ll give me odds.

I’ve seen it all this week. Riding the wrong way down one way streets. Narrowly missing children innocently walking on the pavement. The list goes on and I can’t be bothered to write it all down but Its pretty horrendous, some of the silly things I’ve seen people do on these death traps.
Unfortunately for Boris the poor victim will be an American tourist or young child and the blood will be on his blonde bonce.

Theoretically the Boris bike invention is a good idea. But it doesn’t work well in central London.

So if you see my Facebook status say `I told you so` you know that my prediction came true.

For Boris bikers out there reading this. Obey the law. Live longer. Prove me wrong.
And to Mr.Camping. Can you lend me £20? Ill give it back to you tomorrow!

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The Death of the cinema

Personally if major studios Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox go ahead with their on-demand service allowing families to download the latest releases to watch at home, I believe this will bring an end to the cinema as we know it.

Traditionally, films are not released on DVD or able to be downloaded until after they have completed their run in cinemas, which usually lasts for around four months. The new service would mean consumers could instead download movies to their computers or televisions within two months of release.

Well whats the harm in that? The good points are mainly financial. For us, the consumer. No longer would we have to apply for a loan just to be able to take the family off to the movies. For a family of four today including your pic&mix and cokes you can expect to fork out around £50.

So for a one-off fee of around £18 you would be able to sit in your front room with the family and watch it on your 40″ surround sound plasma. No rip off drinks and popcorn here.

No getting a baby sitter in when you want to take the wife out to see a film. Think of the savings.

The down side is of course a step further into an isolated society.
I see this already in my eldest son. Chatting to people he has never met in real life while blowing their brains out on his Xbox 360 is all the rage now.

Technology especially the internet has ment that we don`t have to go out anymore. I’m writing this as i wait for my wife to put some money in my bank so I can go ahead and order some flowers for my Nan ONLINE.

Internet shopping means trolley rage will be a thing of the past. Kindle is killing bookstores and libraries. You can even order your pizza ONLINE so you dont have to speak to anybody. Soon the only reason to leave your house will be to go to work. And its only a matter of time before that changes.

Ok, maybe I’m being a little extreme here but I fear for the future of social interaction.

Going back to the matter in hand, it has even been suggested that the Vue, Cineworld and Odeon groups – which account for 70 per cent of the UK’s cinemas – could refuse to screen summer blockbusters this year in protest.

The cinemas are supported in their protest by more than 20 leading film-makers including James Cameron, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and Heat producer Michael Mann, who have written a letter to the Hollywood studios.

Cameron, whose films include Avatar and Titanic, said: ‘The cinema experience is the wellspring of our entire business, regardless of what platforms we trickle down to. If the exhibitors are worried, I’m worried. We should be listening to them.’

The directors’ letter said the plans would ‘cannibalise theatrical ticket sales’.

Last year, Vue, Cineworld and Odeon said they would refuse to screen Tim Burton’s 3D version of Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, in the UK due to Disney’s plan to release the movie on DVD a month earlier than usual. Only Odeon went through with the threat.

I think cinemas have become too greedy. Gone are the days of the interval where the usher would stand at the front selling ice creams. Thats because by the time you’ve spent a weeks wages in the foyer on pic&mix there`s nothing left to spend in the interval!!

It’s not a good idea this downloading thing. But having said that, I would consider downloading certain films to watch in the comfort of my home. So I hold my hands up now. I will be partly to blame for the demise of the picture house. I’m sorry.

But if was a bit cheaper to go to the flicks and if I was allowed to take my own food in then id probably go a bit more. I’m British and I don`t like being ripped off.

I hope the scheme doesn’t take off. We can wait four months for the DVD can’t we?

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The Zoo, for free

So my bank holiday monday saw the family take the short drive to Regents Park to visit the zoo. Now ive been trying to avoid the trip for some time as I don`t really like queuing and crowds and stinking animals. So to go on the bank holiday monday was probably not a wise move.

I thought id whizz round the place in about 2 hours so was rather miffed at having to pay a £13 all day ticket to park in the zoo car park. Then after shelling out a further £73 for 2 adults and 2 kids(baby free) I was starting to feel a little ripped off. I live in central London so am used to the rip off prices that tourists are happy to pay and know where to `go cheap`. However there was no cheap to this visit.

To cut a long story short as the day went by I became rather impressed by the whole thing. We spent the best part of 5 and a half hours at the zoo and still didn’t see everything.

It was very different from my last visit almost 10 years ago.
The elephants were gone much to the distress of my wife.
They have been moved to Whipsnade.
But the whole zoo experience has moved with the times and gives you a real hands on experience.
For example, you can walk through several different scenarios such as the rainforest and find uncaged monkeys swinging from the trees and trying to nick your mobile phone.
Then there’s the nightlife zone with bats and rats and the wonderful aquarium and reptile house. Giant tortoises and gorillas, but not in the same area.

The bug zone showed us mating insects and a wonderful walk through butterfly world.

Giraffes, Zebras, Meerkats and Monkeys. The zoo had it all.

So much for kids to enjoy and get involved in. Bouncy castles and slides and play parks. Stories in a tee-pee and various animal shows.

Expect to come home with aching limbs.(and an empty wallet)

But while driving the short drive home I couldn`t help but wonder if there was a cheaper alternative.

And then it came to me. I see it every weekend for free.

Yes folks, for the small fee of a tube or bus ride into central London on a friday or saturday night around 11pm you can visit the zoo for free.

Not Regents Park. No, Shaftesbury Avenue. At around 11pm you can see animals(male and female) defecating in the street, mating in public and knocking the crap out of each other. You wont have to pay the best part of £90 to see it. If you re really lucky you might even have your mobile phone snatched out of your hand by one of the uncaged animals.

So if you want to visit animals that are not in their natural habitat then you should visit London Zoo.

If you want to see animals in their natural habitat and acting like baboons then you should get yourself down to the west end on a weekend night .

Either way, you will not be disappointed.

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